As men age, I wonder exactly when the moment hits and they forever cross the line into being a “Dirty Old Man” after an inappropriate joke or offensive comment is made in the company of a younger woman.

Is a “Dirty Old Man” related to age only?

Or is it a state of mind as
well? Is there a female opposite?

Is it possible the gender opposite of “Dirty Old Man” is “Ugly Old
Woman” – or do those two labels harbor different insults?

Can a 25-year-old male ever be a “Dirty Old Man” or is he still in the
“You Pervert!” label stage for the same inappropriate joke or offensive

Is 40 the transition year into “Dirty Old Mandom?” Or is it 50 or 60 or

Do all men reach that awful “Dirty Old Man” milestone by default or do
only a terrible few earn that label?

How does one defend against the “Dirty Old Man” label if an accuser
inappropriately slaps it on one’s back?


  1. Well here we are again all alone on a Saturday, David.
    This is a hard one. Not all men become DOM but they all have potential. I’d say 70 and above and probably living alone are the most common DOMs. A wife can stop that simmer from boiling over.

  2. Right-O, Anne! Without you the weekends here would be pretty dreary and quiet. Thank for the pepping!
    70, eh? I guess I have some time left, then!
    I agree a wife or a girlfriend can help temper wild obnoxiousness in men.

  3. Young men who hear “Your Pervert!” in response to their behavior are more than likely to become “DOM”s in their old age. It’s the unwanted and unnecessary sexual comment that sticks the label.

  4. It’s a way of degrading a woman. Putting her in her place and such with a look or a name and she responds with namecalling back. You don’t hear men calling other mean a DOM do you?

  5. You’re right. I can’t remembering a man ever calling another man a “Dirty Old Man.”
    Is the phrase ever used as a term of endearment or is it always negative?

  6. If you’re in a May-December romance it might be affectionate but I can’t imagine ever using it that way.

  7. Coolest, Anne, thanks! I think you’re right the term is negative and never a compliment. It’s too bad the term ever had to be invented in the first place to label bad behavior.

  8. It’s a phrase and it’s use it determined by the attitude of the person saying it – and possibly the influence of any peers present.
    It could be used in jest to generate a laugh in a crowd – or as a derisory insult from a woman to a man.
    But the phrase says as much about the person saying it, if not more, than the actions of the insulted. After all, we have ‘toy boys’ but not ‘toy girls’.
    It also crosses into the ‘Old people don’t have sex’ as it is seen by the young as their territory. Even an older person could use that for that reason against another.
    In the end it’s a value judgement and as such the words – for me – become meaningless with such a well-worn phrase but the motivation behind it accompanied by the action that caused it can be very interesting.

  9. Mark!
    It’s great to have you with us and welcome to Urban Semiotic!
    Love your Avatar — it is definitely a keen semiotic!
    I agree the term in never meant kindly and it certainly does take aim at a man’s established sexuality and tried to filth it up with a branding.
    In my experience it is rarely spoken directly to the applicant, but it most commonly craftily placed directly behind his back and into his back with vigor. Then, once he’s tainted, disparaging looks and anger flow his way from friends of the stabber and he unwittingly wonders what changed and what happened.
    Your “Boy Toy” phrase is right on point. I wonder if its opposite is “Trophy Wife?”
    Is there a “Dirty Old Man” parallel in the UK or does it basically mean the same there as in the USA?
    I also find that young women who dress provocatively and get attention for their assets from unwanted older eyes often turn to that phrase to counter the ogling they’re advertising.

  10. I was thinking… if I met a friend my age (42) (I am the ultimate answer!) and he had a 20yo girlfriend I was say he was a lucky sod. My wife would probably say he was far too old and my girls would probably use the Dirty Old Man – which does means the same here.
    I would disagree somewhat about Toy Boy = Trophy Wife. I have heard the former used many times in many social situations but never Trophy Wife. Possibly that is connected with money, high profile. The terms Toy and Trophy are certainly not interchangable too.
    With regard to being behind their back and tainting – it’s a very cheap shot that can be based on the flimsiest of evidence yet built to be something far from any perceived event. It’s insidious in that there may be no evidence at all yet a campaign could be mounted by others and the man has no redress whatsoever. It’s the case that he is accused and sentenced at the same time.
    I agree about the young women but I would counter that their calls of “Dirty Old Man” are no different from the calls of “Pervert” or “Bitch” which they would happily say to anyone outside their immediate circle or a man they wished to draw in (their prey). It is an insult and nothing more.
    As for “A wife can stop that simmer from boiling over.” …. I’m disagreeing. Having a wife could be the perfect front for actually being a DOM. Maybe having a wife but not being sexually active with her could lead to inappropriate behaviour elsewhere.
    It’s a throwaway insult but one that can also be used as a basis for more prolonged ‘action’. I can’t think of many insults that have such power.

  11. Heya Mark!
    You’re going to have to explain to us what “lucky sod” means. Is it the same as a “lucky SOB”, I wonder?
    Yes, using yourself as your own expert witness is always a good idea!
    It’s interesting how your daughters might think the guy is a “Dirty Old Man” just because he was dating a younger woman and not necessarily for bad behavior or using some sort of inappropriate sexual innuendo.
    My understanding of “Trophy Wife” is it is much younger woman who is quite beautiful and marries an older man for his money, status and power not for love or baby-making. So he, I guess, could be the “Dirty Old Man” for marrying her in the prime of her youth and her jealousy-inducing beauty becomes his wife as a trophy.
    I’ve also heard the term “Barracuda” used to negatively describe successful, monied, older women who chase after much younger men for sex and then toss them away once they’re spent.
    I agree the label becomes the person in such a tainting. It is unfortunate, as you argue, because once you’re perceived as the “Dirty Old Man” — you will have a hard time ever redeeming your reputation in the community. How could others begin to defend you? “Gee, he’s really NOT a Dirty Old Man?” Ouch!
    “Pervert” and “Bitch” aren’t necessarily age-related slams, though. I know women who, as much as I hate it, celebrate self-labeling themselves at “bitches” and “hoes” —
    I’ve never met a “Pervert” who enjoyed that label unless they were in the middle of the nasty and it was expressed as a term of passion.
    It’s interesting you don’t think a wife is a simmer-stopper for “Dirty Old Man” behavior. I take your point a shoddy marital situation might just be the push needed into the label fitting the behavior.
    I agree the label is unfortunate and, in many ways, as effective as an assassin’s bullet when placed just so because it shreds character and well-being in one shot.

  12. David- As “time” goes on, everyone’s starting to look young to me. lol. (Also as time goes on, i’m starting to believe that all words should be placed in quotes, and have “lol,” after them; or i guess maybe that’s understood, or should be; except by the “seriousness wordist fundamentalists.”)

  13. Hi fred —
    I realize the older one gets the lonelier one becomes because those who shared life as it was lived in real time are becoming fewer and fewer. It will one day — if we are lucky — the fate of us all!
    I agree that all negative words should be in quotes — I think celebratory words should be given quote-less free reign and encouraged to be used everywhere all the time!

  14. Hi David,
    A lot has to do with the delivery and over all demeanor of the person.
    The old man is a DOM if he’s perceived as being creepy, pushy, and socially uncoordinated.
    However, if one has social graces and is “smooth,” there is less danger of being branded a DOM. It would be hard to see Bill Clinton ever being thought of as a DOM, even though he engaged in affairs with younger women. Mark Foley, on the other hand, will probably always be seen as a DOM steps away from ending up on the porch of some “Dateline” house after spending too much time chatting on the computer.

  15. Hi, David.
    A couple in their 80s married. Their honeymoon night, he reached for her hand, they smiled and went to sleep. Same thing the second, third and fourth night. On the fifth night as he reached for the hand of his beloved, she said, “Not tonight, Dear. I have a headache.”

  16. Chris!
    It’s interesting you believe demeanor, and not acts, make the definition.
    I think Ann Coulter has called Bill Clinton a “Dirty Old Man” many times on the air and in print!
    I somehow remember growing up around an ancient “Dirty Old Man” joke book that was kind of raunchy in an unsophisticated and appropriate way compared to the mores of today.

  17. Shirley!
    What a great topper to an interesting topic.
    Thank you for your warm humor and your deft, intellectual, touch for a topic that can be more than touchy!

  18. Hi dear pen pals,
    The title “The Definition of A Dirty Old Man” attracts – has attracted and thus I have found lots of questions. Thank you.
    The questions are the best answer. They dont allow nodding a head in an agreement but demands self-analysis.
    In other words, I was happy to question myself.
    Who are you, Tomas?
    I am already 51. Does that mean anything?
    No, it doesnt. Physical age means nothing in essence. It is our attitude towards the life that makes us old or keep eternally young.
    Thus I have questioned myself once more.
    Do I recognize myself in your eyes (in your comments) or just want to moralize? Thats the threshold that defines our belonging to the young or to the retired.

  19. Hi David,
    I completely believe that demeanor makes all of the difference in these sorts of situations.
    Of course, I’m not talking about someone attacking or leering at someone or acting in an inappropriate manner.
    I remember going to a dive bar when I was in school and seeing an older gentleman wander around the place asking 21-year-old co-eds to dance with him to a song from the jukebox. He wasn’t “creepy” so plenty of women 50 years his younger let him take their hands and walk to an empty spot to dance for a few minutes. If he got lucky, maybe he’d get a kiss on the cheek from an attractive co-ed.
    Of course, if the guy was lacking in social skills or had a “strange look” in his eye or just seemed to be a little too excited about being close to a young woman, he would have been branded the biggest dirty old man in the bar.
    I noticed that Google has this post as number three after the book results and the definition of “dirty old man.”

  20. Chris!
    I know a lot of women who would be skeeved out by a man 50 years older than them asking them to dance for a kiss on the cheek. Ew! He would definitely be a “Dirty Old Man” in their book.
    WOW! I LOVE THAT GOOGLE! That’s a pretty fabulous AND FAST placing for this article, eh! Huzzah on us all!

  21. Chris!
    I mentioned your new Avatar in the “Selfless Act” comments!
    Then I thought — that was a wacky thing for me to do because you’ll change it again tomorrow and everyone in the future will wonder what the hey-dee-hey we’re talking about when they read that article!
    You should create a post on your blog that details all of your Avatars so we can all have an easy reference for future creativity!

  22. Hi David,
    That’s a good idea for a blog. If nobody read it, it would still be interesting to have a place to keep track of all of the new avatars. 🙂

  23. Hi Chris!
    Yes, and it could just be one single post that gets updated and added to every time you change your Avatar!
    You can explain what each one means and why and how you made it!

  24. I wish you could have been with me in Paris where I could have visually pointed out the differences between DOM and perverts and illustrated many more examples on the scale and a few of the females of the species.
    DOM to me is an attitude and behaviour which is disrespectful to women and sees women as sexual objects – and nothing else.
    DOM examples – married men with beautiful wives who still leer and letch after those 30 years younger.
    Single men over 50 who leer and letch over all women – Anything in a skirt or who has boobs.
    These differ from sluts of both sexes who are sexually active , enjoy it – but who are respectful of their current partners.
    Sluts have a certain amount of honesty about them – they have accepted who and what they are , are sexually responsible and the arrangements are reciprical – ie two way.
    I did have a quick look around for Barbara Cartland who was famous for her stable of toyboys – I cannot find a term applied to her which encompasses anything resembling the female equivalent of DOM.
    Joan Collins is another who has a healthy appetite for the younger male .
    Aorry if this is disjointed – I am getting too old to party all night, sightsee, shop and hold a lucid conversation the day after !

  25. It’s so great to have you back, Nicola! I have missed your insight and your great mind!
    I love your examples. Oh, if you’d only taken images of those “Dirty Old Men” we could’ve had a killer image article here!
    You’re right about Carland and Collins. I’ve heard that about them before. They are classic “Barracudas.”

  26. I believe we all end up as “Dirty Old” whatever… Unless we are filty rich.

  27. What is wrong with a 50 year old man dating a 20 year old woman? 18 is the legal age of majority. If I was 45 or 50 I would go out with someone who was between the ages of 18 and 34 no problem, even older up to 40.

  28. I completely agree with Nicola. DOM are disrespectful and disgusting. They are NOT gentlemanly, and come off as being reptilian. They leer, and attempt to “seduce” any woman who has a pulse, no matter how ridiclous it makes them appear. They use their penis to navigate through life rather than their brain and their hearts. Many men begin doing that an early age, it just doesn’t become noticeably creepy until they reach about 50, and gets more and more disgusting into the 60’s and beyond.

Comments are closed.